Opening Beaches, First Step Toward Restarting Economy

At the root of our economy is the beach – an open beach.

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

— Steve’s Marketplace —

By U.S. Constitution standards, the purpose of the media is to inform the people. Not to scare the daylights out of us.

The media is also supposed to objectively report on our government in a checks-and-balances role. Like the other standard, this is routinely trampled in nonstop coronavirus coverage. Just ask Lenny Curry.

Jacksonville's Mayor, Lenny Curry, Image of Press Conference (4/16/2020)
Jacksonville’s Mayor, Lenny Curry, Press Conference (4/16/2020)

Curry is ignoring the explosive media coverage of his decision to reopen Jacksonville’s beaches. The Jacksonville mayor will not decide how to restart the area economy (and lifestyle activities) based upon coverage he feels is biased.

“I didn’t like seeing it,” Curry says about the blitz of national coverage, including a stilted CNN report from the sands of Jacksonville Beach on opening day. “But I will make decisions based on conversations with the scientists, the doctors and how we get back to work in a way to mitigate risk and encourage people to practice behaviors that we need to practice.”

Curry made a bold move to reopen the beaches, even on a limited basis. He did it for the people. That’s what strong political leaders do, despite inevitable criticism.

Here in Nassau County, local officials are waiting for some type of indication/confirmation about when to reopen our beaches. And when to reopen city parks, recreation facilities, etc. within Fernandina Beach (things that residents use and enjoy).

Whenever it is, Nassau County and Fernandina Beach commissioners hope to coordinate in reopening the beach here. About half of our 13-mile beach is within Fernandina Beach city limits; the other half is in the unincorporated county. A date to reopen has been bantered about, with the county targeting May 6. The city has not set a date.

Some officials here want to see how the nearby beaches fare with loosened restrictions. Some object to exposing lifeguards or police/deputies to what could be infected crowds. However, in a limited-access opening, lifeguards are not necessary if swimming is banned (parts of our beaches don’t have lifeguards anyway).

After all, we live at the coast because we are beach lovers; otherwise, we would live inland. And residents need recreation outside the house, under the bright sunshine, especially younger ones. We will have emotional and, in some instances, physical scars from being cooped up too long. Just look at the statistics (from Micah’s Place, police reports, state health agencies, etc.).

It’s no wonder why people are scared, or at least nervous about leaving the house. The barrage and velocity of virus coverage is breathtaking. And the startling graphics that look like a scoreboard at a basketball game appear on television at blurring speeds and repetition.

You realize the lockdown is in a full-court press when the Boys & Girls Club removes the basketball backboards and rims at its Lime Street location. The youth club is not run by the city, but it is following a strict city policy.

Let’s all face it. People are getting restless. Look at the protests around the country. Ironically, people are protesting for the government to let them work, rightfully claiming their constitutional rights are being squashed.

Usually we are trying to get people to work. Now we are trying to keep them from working. The tables have been reversed in a perverse way. Some doctor said it best: We must control the virus, or else the virus controls us. If you are keeping score, the virus is winning.

Up and down the coast, neighboring beaches are being reopened. From Flagler and St. Johns and Duval counties to the south, through Georgia and South Carolina to the north. Maybe local officials know something these other places don’t. Or they’re just reluctant to make a decision.

Either way, reopening the beaches is the first baby step toward restarting our tourism-based economy. At the root of our economy is the beach – an open beach.

Steve Nicklas Financial Advisor
Steve Nicklas

Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor for a major brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns appear regularly in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, and on his website: He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of some of his favorite columns over the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].